Dealing with Rejection for Poets

All writers get rejections, even Pulitzer Prize winners. The reasons for rejection vary, but they should be worn as a badge of honour. You don’t get rejections unless you’ve taken yourself seriously enough as a writer to submit your work.

Rejections are rarely about the quality of work submitted

Unless the editor has specifically said so, rejections aren’t about the quality of your work. Often they’re because the editor already had 10 cat poems that week and yours was the 11th, or the editor receives more poems in a week than they can publish in a year or because the editor liked your subject but not the way you wrote about it or liked your style but not the subject.

Rejections can help you as a writer

If an editor’s taken the trouble to handwrite a rejection slip, no matter how illegibly, take note. Give it a few days and then try and decipher the writing. Editors only bother giving a handwritten note for writing that nearly made it into the acceptance pile. It is worth editing your poem and trying again (but give it a couple of months at the very least).

Editors don’t owe you an explanation for a rejection

Don’t be tempted to write back and ask the editor why they rejected you or for clarification and definitely do not reduce yourself to the level of insulting the editor. Stay professional.

Don’t self-publish on the rebound from a rejection

There are valid reasons for considering self-publishing. A very good one is when editors or agents are rejecting your work because it’s good “but not quite right for them” or they “can’t see a market for it” (and you can). But before you self-publish, take time out to draw up your marketing plan otherwise your self-published work will sink without trace.

Did you self-sabotage and cause your own rejection?

Read the submission guidelines, follow the submission guidelines, double check your submission conforms to the submissions guidelines before sending. If you don’t follow the submission guidelines, rejection will automatically follow and it will be your fault.

Don’t send all your poems to one editor

If you only send out one submission at time, then one rejection is 100%. Send out 12 submissions and one rejection is 8%. Don’t increase your rejection rate by shooting out submissions randomly to editors, but do have several submissions out at any one time. That way one rejection is tempered by 11 potential acceptances.

Have a plan B

When you send a batch of poems to magazine A, have in mind a back-up that you can submit them to if they are rejected. If you don’t need Plan B, write more poems that you can send to magazine B anyway.

Write more Poems

Don’t wait around for rejections, always be working on another project. Writers write and you don’t need the validation of publication to keep writing. If you can’t face writing another poem yet, write reviews, blog articles, attend open mic evenings and develop an audience for your work.

Accept you cannot control rejections

You don’t get to chose whether an editor selects your poems or not.

Focus on the parts of the process you can control: write, read, improve your writing, read submission guidelines, present your poems professionally, keep submitting.

If you’re thinking of writing some New Year’s Resolutions: see New Year’s Resolutions for writers.

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One Response to “Dealing with Rejection for Poets”

  1. A Poet’s Biography | Emma Lee's Blog Says:

    […] my article on dealing with rejection, you decided that sending out some poems (after following submission guidelines) was a good idea […]


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